Maternity/paternity leave is a hot topic all over our country. Some businesses are offering an innovative approach to maternity benefits: Infant at Work programs.
Washington State’s government allows new parents to bring their babies to work with them until they are six months old.
This might seem impractical, but it’s proven to be a very successful strategy!
Do you want your company to stay competitive? Then you need to read our guide to Baby at Work policies!
Why are maternity benefits changing?
What is behind these progressive changes in maternity benefits? Have we suddenly become aware of parents in the workplace, or extremely compassionate about children?
Companies with baby-friendly workplaces say there are many benefits to these policies. They:
- Attract and retain workers
- Improve morale
- Increase teamwork
- Provide excellent public relations
Workers are increasingly focused on work/life balance. In the most simple terms: better maternity benefits are good for business!
Good maternity benefits are good for business:
- In 2015, almost 42% of mothers with children under the age of one were not participating in the workforce.
- Right now, the unemployment rate hovers at 4.6% in the United States.
- Businesses have to implement creative ways to attract and retain talent in an extremely competitive job market.
Employers cannot afford to lose strong contributors! Developing flexible workplace policies for new parents helps both businesses and workers.
Try a pilot Infant at Work program:
The best way to find out if this benefit is a good fit for your business is to start with a pilot program.
This is what the Washington State government did, to ascertain if babies in their work environment would be compatible with their business model.
Before you start experimenting:
- Recognize from the beginning that a Baby at Work program may not work for every single job in the company.
- For example, it might work well for an administrative assistant, but not as well for a shipping and receiving clerk who drives a forklift all day.
The basics of a Baby at Work policy:
To avoid surprises and disappointments, your program should have a policy that spells out expectations for everyone in advance.
It’s important that your policy ensures:
- Babies are safe
- Workplace disruptions are controlled
- Employees are able to maintain focus & productivity
- The baby’s family is happy
Important details to consider:
There are some important logistics that must be addressed before an employee brings their infant to work:
Where will the baby be changed and where will the dirty diapers go?
Who will look after the baby when its parent is in a meeting, on the phone, or performing a task that makes them temporarily unavailable?
A successful Infant at Work program must have one or two designated in-office volunteers who can act as backup caregivers in those circumstances.
Where will the baby’s parent work?
Your Infant at Work program will only succeed if parents have a private workspace with a door.
Some companies even create a baby-free zone for those employees who prefer not to interact with the little one.
Where will a mother breastfeed?
Regardless of whether you allow infants in the workplace, under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, you most likely have to accommodate nursing or breastfeeding mothers in the workplace anyway.
Accommodating breastfeeding is just a matter of using some thoughtfulness and care.
How long will you allow babies in the workplace?
It’s common for Infant at Work programs to accommodate babies until they are about six months old or able to crawl.
Once a baby becomes mobile, it’s harder to ensure their safety. At that age, they also start to require more attention and interaction, which can create too much workplace distraction.
Will you need to make compensation changes?
You and your employee should recognize up front that they will have to dedicate some of their work time to taking care of the baby. This doesn’t need to be compensated with “on the clock” time.
- Many Infant at Work policies state that the employee will receive pay for six hours out of their eight-hour day
- Have hourly employees maintain an accurate timesheet, so they are properly paid under the FLSA (this also helps lower resentment in other employees)
What happens if a baby at work is fussy?
You don’t need to be a parent to know that sometimes babies are just unhappy no matter what you do.
When a baby is particularly fussy, its parent needs to make sure the work environment isn’t disrupted. That may mean going out for a while or taking the baby home for the day.
There are also some babies who just aren’t a good fit for the workplace. In those instances, telecommuting may become a better option.
Will a baby at work be a distraction?
Some people are concerned that a parent will be so distracted by their baby that they’ll get very little done. On the other hand, many people believe that an employee will work very hard to be productive so they can continue to enjoy the privilege of bringing their little one with them.
Obviously, employee performance is something their supervisor needs to monitor. It’s important to keep in mind that the baby’s parent is not the only worker susceptible to distraction.
Some employers worry that co-workers will constantly visit with the baby and get distracted from their work. While this may happen, it’s probably going to be the same people that find other reasons to get distracted during the day.
Staying on task is an issue that everyone must agree to manage daily.
How will you address complaints & conflicts?
It’s important that an Infant at Work program works well for everyone in the company, not just mom or dad.
If there are conflicts or complaints, they need to be brought up and resolved. Make sure employees have a comfortable way to voice their concerns to managers.
Having baby at work isn’t a guaranteed right. You should make an agreement with your employee from the beginning that Infant at Work arrangements can be terminated at any time if unresolvable conflicts develop.
Contact your insurance provider & attorney:
Before you develop a Baby at Work program, check with your insurance provider to make sure that your business is covered from a liability standpoint.
If this adds a cost to your insurance, your employee might be willing to pay it for the privilege of bringing a baby with them. After all, parents still save a ton of money on child care if they use this option!
Most companies utilize a legal waiver form releasing the company of any liability should something go wrong. Be sure to have your attorney review it.
As the talent pool continues to shrink and we all compete for the best and the brightest employees to contribute to our company’s success, our policies must continually evolve to match their expectations.
Letting new parents bring their baby to work is a perk that has surprisingly little, if any, cost to the company.
While I’m unconvinced this would work in my own business with recruiters who are on the phone 90% of their day, I’d be willing to give a Baby at Work program serious thought if I stood to lose a valuable employee.